Psalm 40; 1 Thessalonians 3:1-13; Matthew 5:27-37
Today is the feast day of Julian of Norwich. She is one who speaks to us in the times we find ourselves as she lived through a terrible pandemic. After a miraculous intervention of the Lord when she was on her death bed, she went on to live a life of complete isolation. In her case, this is what she felt called to do by God. The following is a synopsis of her life:
On May 8, the church celebrates the Feast of Dame Julian of Norwich, a 15th-century English anchoress, mystic, and writer. Born sometime around 1342, during the years of the second plague pandemic or Black Death, little is known about Julian’s early life, even her name. When she became an anchoress (a woman who withdraws from secular life for religious purposes), she took the name “Julian” because her cell was built onto the wall of the church of St. Julian in Norwich. The church is believed to have been named, originally, for either St. Julian the Hospitaller or St. Julian of Le Mans.
At the age of 30, Julian suffered a grave illness, and on what appeared to be her deathbed, she experienced a series of visions of Christ, or “showings.” Julian was desperately ill on her death bed, struggling to breathe and preparing to die. The priest had been called. As he intoned the final blessing, he held a crucifix before her eyes.
Then a strange thing happened. the figure on the cross began to bleed, shedding great stalactites of blood and mucous. In an image shocking for its sensuousness, Julian compared the blood to water dripping from the eaves of a house and to strips of herring flayed at her kitchen sink. Later, when she described Jesus’ dead body, with its pustules and blue-blackened color, she gave a clinical picture of something everyone in Norwich and in all England would have immediately recognized.
It was a picture of a man willing to catch the very disease that he cures. Who visits a young woman’s house in time of plague and, while healing her, dies of it himself.
The best known line of Julian’s “Revelations” is this: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” Another great line occurs several chapters later, when the Lord says, “You shall not be overcome.”
It was when she recovered, that she wrote a book about her visions. It is entitled, “Revelations of Divine Love,” which has also become known as the Short Text. This remains the earliest known book written in English by a woman. Several decades later, she began work on a second book, further exploring the meanings of her visions, which is known as the Long Text.
As an anchoress, Julian lived a solitary life, never leaving her cell. Her meals were brought to her, and she kept a small garden inside a high wall. Aside from listening through a curtained window to those who came to seek her counsel, she lived in complete isolation – although popular belief is that she kept a cat, and in art, she is often depicted with her cat.
Collect for Julian of Norwich
Lord God, in your compassion you granted to the Lady Julian many revelations of your nurturing and sustaining love: Move our hearts, like hers, to seek you above all things, for in giving us yourself you give us all; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen
May you experience Christ’s love throughout your day,